An Announcement: We have a new addition!

Please welcome Lindsay’s new blog Bumble & Vine to the blogosphere! Make sure to read the About page and Introductory post so you know what it’s all about and how it differs from Herban Flavor. It’s less about food and more about Food, if that makes any sense: bigger ideas, food justice conversations, food policy debates, etc. Check it out!

Emily and I will continue to run Herban Flavor, so stay tuned.

Thanks for reading!

A toast to good health

Well, damn. Sometimes I impress myself. Like when I whip up a very tasty, extremely nutritious dinner from what I happen to have in the kitchen. Tonight I made a wheat berry pilaf, honey-spice roasted carrots & sweet potatoes and a simple garlicky rainbow chard.
But it was the Wheat Berry Pilaf that truly stole the show.

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Ingredients
1 1/2 cups hard red wheat berries
1 quart chicken, vegetable or mushroom broth (I used the latter)
2 bay leaves
1-2 ribs celery, very finely diced
1 package Trader Joe’s rosemary pecans & cranberries*
2 tsp orange zest
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Toast your wheat berries in a dry pot briefly over low heat. Add broth and bay leaves and cook for about an hour, until they reach the consistency you like. You might need to add another half cup or cup of water. Mine eventually all absorbed, but sometimes it has to be drained.
2. Turn heat to lowest setting. Stir in remaining ingredients and a splash of white wine if you happen to have some around (optional).

*TJ’s rosemary pecans & cranberries are… amazing. If you lack a TJ’s, you have my empathy, and here’s a recipe for making your own. You could just toss in pecans, cranberries, and fresh or dry rosemary, but it wouldn’t be the same. The TJ’s pecans have absorbed the herb.

For the carrots and sweet potatoes I simply whisked together olive oil, honey, orange juice, cumin and dried ginger, plus salt & pepper. Then tossed the veggies in the glaze and roasted at 425° for about 30-45 minutes.

The Swiss chard is a classic, easy recipe, just wilted with garlic and red pepper flakes.

 

Reasons to Stay Inside. All Day.

I woke up to 21° weather, and a promise that it would not top out over 28°. Given the lack of snow, when Christmas is but a week away (really, New England?), I consider this Reason Number One to not leave my apartment.

Reason Number Two: it’s a great excuse to spend a majority of my day cooking tasty things. Perhaps one of my guilty pleasures, I love few things as much as a lazy Sunday at home spent baking and bubbling and basting up anything delicious I wouldn’t necessarily have time for during the week. Case in point, a good hearty breakfast is the number one thing I never ever have time for on a rushed Tuesday morning at 7:34 when I’m trying to get out the door. Don’t get me wrong, I agree that breakfast is super important, and I do eat it daily, but it’s usually just a quick hard boiled egg or Nutella on toast. Which makes creating a nice breakfast on a slow weekend morning something of a treat.

What this usually means is I grab the eggs, some cheese, and whatever else I happen to have on hand and just wing it.  This morning I whipped up something like a strata, or a fritatta, or a hash, or a crustless quiche, or a casserole – I really have no idea what to call it, so I’ll just say it’s a “Brunch Bake”. As often happens, I have a handful of ingredients and a rough concept, spend half an hour Googling a recipe, and never find quite what I’m looking for. So I make it up as I go.

This morning, that meant red potatoes, fresh thyme, sharp cheddar, and of course, eggs. “Recipe” (loose term):
Ingredients
5 red potatoes, washed* & cubed to about 3/4″ dice 

4 fresh brown eggs from the farm*
3/4 cup milk (not skim) or half and half

1/2 cup sharp cheddar, shredded (Cabot=best)
several sprigs thyme, stemmed
olive oil, salt and pepper (of course)
optional additions: crisped bacon, sauteed mushrooms, fresh spinach, caramelized onions, garlic – fresh or roasted, or whatever your hungry heart desires.

  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Toss cubed potatoes with olive oil, salt, pepper, and 2/3 of your thyme. Roast for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on the outside. They should still be firm, but well cooked.
  2. Whisk together the eggs and milk, season lightly with salt and pepper, and toss in remaining thyme.
  3. When the potatoes are done, immediately transfer them to a greased baking dish. I used my favorite, beloved Staub enameled cast iron gratin dish, but I am honestly not sure of its volume. It’s about 6″x12″ and oval, but it was far deeper than necessary. I am sure an 8″ square pan would be fine, possibly even a 9″ pie pan. Experiment. Lower oven temp to 350°.
  4. Stir in any additions (I didn’t have any/forgot the garlic). Sprinkle half the cheese over top of the potatoes. Gently pour the eggs over the whole thing and bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the eggs are set, slightly puffed up, and turning golden.
  5. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake another 5 minutes until melted. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before you cut it.

*Reasons I insist on these two things: Potatoes are #9 on the “Dirty Dozen” list of produce that gets the most pesticide and chemicals. Organic potatoes are not the easiest thing to find, so wash them well.
As for the eggs, we have been tricked by the supermarket/factory farming/Big Ag into believing that paying more than $2 for a dozen eggs is outrageous. That price hides the true cost of eggs which are laid by hens who never see the light of day and are shot full of hormones and antibiotics. The $6 I spend on a dozen eggs from Allandale Farm is 110% worth it to me, because I am supporting local farmers, I know where my eggs are coming from, and I am protecting the environment, my health and the chickens by not having my eggs shipped from some CAFO in the midwest. Not to mention, a dozen eggs last me two full weeks and is the healthy protein basis of as many meals. Don’t get me started, but I believe 100% in the mantra “Pay the farmer, not the doctor” and I believe that the fact that Americans spend the most on healthcare and the least on food of any country on the planet tells the story on its own.

Reason Number Three. Need I say more?

                 

Reason Number Four: I have a whole list of things to accomplish, such as stuff to take care of before I go home for the holidays on Thursday (!), a variety of unsavory household chores, a sincere desire to hit the gym but reluctance due to temperature, etc. The laundry is haunting and taunting me as we speak. I always set aside Sunday as a day to Get Things Done, but usually I end up finding a way to Avoid Things that Need to Get Done. I’m an excellent avoider. But I’m a better cook, so…

Reason Number Five: taking the time to cook a nice, healthy, satisfying meal that will provide leftovers throughout the week. I’m trying to use what I’ve got in the house before I leave for Raleigh. I’m also sincerely trying to eat really healthfully because a, i feel live i’ve gotten off track with all the birthday/holiday/travel/visitor happenings, and b, Christmas is in a week and I’m going home, both of which means lots of eating indulgently. So for tonight, I’m planning a zesty, fruity, nutty wheat berry pilaf, some simple garlicky Swiss chard (self proclaimed chard addict here), and cumin roasted carrots. Details/photos to come, once that happens.

Reason Number Six: I haven’t updated this blog in over a month, but I have lots of highlights to share. That will come in a second post.

Reason Number Seven: the holidays bring out my artsy craftsy urges.

                 

Smokey Spicy Sweet

I must admit I am posting this primarily for selfish reasons. Do I want you to run to your kitchen and make these tacos? Absolutely. But only if you send some my way. I have to remember this out-of-the-blue recipe I made on a busy Monday night. It’s a must-repeat.

Chipotle Bacon Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro Slaw

Taco Stuffing
4 slices bacon
1/2 sweet onion, diced
salt
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp brown sugar
2-4 chipotle peppers with adobo sauce
3 T. quality salsa – Trader Joe’s Chipotle Garlic is a winner
2 cans black beans
1/2 lime

Slaw
1 1/2 c. shredded cabbage – I used green but often use red for tacos
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
the other 1/2 lime
salt

Accoutrements
whole wheat tortillas
salsa
shredded cheese
avocado or guacamole
sour cream

  • In a bowl, toss cabbage, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Set aside.
  • In a food processor, puree chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. You can use fewer peppers for milder heat, but use all the smoky, sultry sauce – it’s invaluable. Finely dice with a sharp knife if you lack a processor.
  • Fry your bacon until good and crispy; set aside to drain and chop roughly. Leave a little bacon grease in the skillet.
  •  Add the onions to the skillet, season with cumin and salt to taste. Cook 2-3 minutes, then add brown sugar and cook a few more, until golden brown, soft and fragrant.
  • Stir in black beans, pureed chipotle en adobo, bacon, salsa and lime juice. Lower heat and stir until well coated and hot.
  • Serve each taco with a smear of sour cream or guacamole, a heap of sizzling spicy beans, a sprinkle of cheese and a generous crunchy topping of slaw. A little extra salsa can’t hurt, especially if you used fewer chipotles – just try not to let your taco overflow!

Mediterranean Wheat Berry Salad

I adore wheat berries. Really, truly love them, and the great thing about it is, they are one of the healthiest, least processed foods you can put into your body. Their downfall is the time it takes to cook them, I’ll be the first to admit. But they are well worth the wait for their nutty taste, satisfying chewy “pop”, and perfect nutritional value. Have you been told you need to eat more whole grains? It doesn’t get any better than this: A wheat berry is a harvested kernel of whole wheat. “Hard” wheat berries are darker and chewier, while “soft” wheat berries are white and more like grains of fat rice or barley. This recipe uses hard wheat berries, but feel free to use soft. You might want to Google a recipe just to be sure the cooking time and water amount are proportioned correctly.

This salad is a huge step up from pasta salad, in both nutrition and appeal – it’s different from your ordinary lunch. It combines the wholesome, filling grain with the fresh, bright flavors of a Mediterranean dish. I improvised this, so there is definitely room to play around with it. In the summertime, I would definitely add halved cherry tomatoes and matchstick cucumbers, but given the season and what’s in my pantry, this is what I made. It’s delicious and will be a great lunch all week long!

Mediterranean Wheat Berry Salad

1 cup wheat berries
3 1/2 cups water
1/2 lb frozen spinach, thawed & pressed
1 (14 oz.) can chickpeas, drained
4 to 6 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1/2 lemon, both zest & juice
1 to 2 T olive oil
*Spices: I happen to have  a lovely Mediterranean spice blend from World Market that I sprinkle on everything many different things. Assuming that’s not in your cabinet, use any blend of the following to suit your taste:
Garlic, Red Pepper Flakes, Parsley, Dill, Mint
Salt to taste

  1. Cook the wheat berries. This does take a good hour, but you can leave it unattended on the stove while you read a book, do your laundry, mow the lawn, whine about it on Twitter… whatever. Combine water, a pinch of salt and wheat berries in a pot and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally. At an hour, take a couple out and test them – they should be chewy, but not hard. When they’re done, drain and set aside.
  2. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well. Adjust seasoning to your taste.
  3. Stir in the wheat berries and refrigerate. I have a feeling this would be delicious either cold or hot.

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